The book documents how vital nutrients have been bred out of our produce in a quest to make the taste more palpable. It is an engaging and practical guide in showing the reader how to reclaim health and vitality by creating a diet rich in nutrition. (Click on “Feasting at Nature’s Café” on the right sidebar for more info.)
Healthy eating was an important part of Jo’s family culture. “My grandmother, Elizabeth Robinson, was into nutrition long before it was popular to do so,” she told me during a recent interview. “She would bake seven loaves of whole wheat bread every Friday for the family to eat throughout the week.”
This was before the nutrition in whole wheat bread versus white was widely known. Her grandmother was ahead of her time, a bit anti-establishment.
When my grandmother was young “the USDA was telling Americans they should eat white bread because it was more digestible,” Jo said. Her grandmother belonged to an organization of women that protested white bread and Coca Cola because they were bad for one’s health.
Elizabeth also fed the family seeds and nuts, and had them drink green tea for their health. “I don’t know how she knew what she did,” Jo said. “But she was very outspoken in life about what we should be eating. We lived and breathed that.”
Her grandmother grew an organic garden on the family’s wooded property in Hood Canal, Washington. As a child Jo explored the woods. “I felt one with nature, I felt safer there than anywhere,” she said.
Later Jo enrolled at Reed College in Portland, Oregon. She dropped out midway unsure of what she wanted. She returned to the family property and lived in a cabin there by herself for a year. To sustain herself she cleared a patch of land that was overgrown with blackberry brambles and planted an organic garden.
Eventually she married, had a child, and began a writing career. Her first books were in the self-help genre and were collaborations with experts in the field. They include: Unplug the Christmas Machine (with Jean Staeheli), Getting the Love You Want (with Dr.Harville Hendricks), Emotional Incest and Hot Monogamy (with Dr. Pat Love), When Your Body Gets the Blues (with Dr. Marie-Annett Brown ), and The Omega Diet (with Dr. Artemus Simopoulos).
But she was always interested in food and nutrition and eventually her history and her own passion pulled her in the direction of producing the most nutritious food possible. She began exploring agricultural practices in the cattle industry and wrote two books, Pasture Perfect and Why Grassfed is Best, on raising cattle on a grass diet. She traveled the country teaching farmers how to change their farming practices based on the research she had conducted. All the while she was growing and experimenting with her own garden.
“I screen everything through scientific research,” she said, “which is how I see things.”
But there was more than science at play in Jo’s own creative unfolding. Standing in her writing office overlooking her half-acre garden, she shows me an aged brown picture of the family land. The picture features a cabin and the garden her grandmother planted. The picture was just discovered a few years ago by a family member. When Jo first saw the picture, to her amazement, she realized the organic garden she had grown in her earlier years was in the exact same spot her grandmother had gardened.
Jo also possesses letters her grandmother wrote to her grandfather when he was away on business. They had one child at the time and Elizabeth wrote to her husband that, while she was happy to be a mother, perhaps they could consider waiting to have more children for a while so she could go to college.
The next letter Jo has, reveals her grandmother with several more children and no college education. “I am taking up where she left off,” Jo said a bit wistfully.
“I have the hardest time getting enough sleep, because there is so much I want to do!” she says enthusiastically. “When I wake up early, I can’t go back to sleep, because I’m so excited!”
Here are the five tips Jo shared on how we can begin to enrich our eating habits one bite at a time.
Eat some fresh garlic every day. Garlic has a proven ability to thin the blood and prevent disease. After putting it through a garlic press, it is vital to let it sit for 10 minutes before cooking so it will maintain its incredible health benefits while being exposed to heat. Only buy garlic in its skins, which protects its nutrition until it is used. Store in the fridge in a brown paper bag. Do not put in the crisper!
Choose apples that are red on all sides. Completely red apples are 2 – 3 times better for us because of their exposure to the sun. The most nutritious varieties currently available in the United States include Braeburn, Cortland, Discovery, Gala, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, Idared, McIntosh, Melrose, Ozark Gold, and Red Delicious.
Choose the best lettuce and eat in abundance. The most nutritious lettuces have loose open leaves and are intensely colored—with hues of red, purple, brown or dark green. These lettuces have an abundance of anthocyanins, a powerful antioxidant that aids in fighting cancer, lowering blood pressure, slowing age-related memory loss, and even reducing the negative effects of eating high-sugar and high-fat foods. Iceberg Lettuce, the most popular in this country, has so few nutritious properties it is of almost no health advantage to eat.
If it’s purple eat it! Now you can find varieties of potatoes, carrots, onions, and garlic that are deep hued, not only purple but red and blue. This is a sign of powerful health promoting antioxidants.
Eat at least a half cup of berries a day. Berries are loaded with health promoting, disease-fighting phytonutrients and antioxidants. Flash-freeze berries for storage by placing them in a single layer on a tray, putting in the freezer for a couple of hours, and then placing in freezer bags. This helps maintain their critical nutrition.
And as a bonus, here’s a sixth tip that is nothing but fun!
Eat two or three pieces of Dove Dark Chocolate every day. It helps our skin, reduces the risk of cancer and memory loss. Dove has perfected a patented process that preserves the powerful antioxidants during processing by using lower temperatures. Dove is actually healthier than the hardest, darkest, high content cacao chocolate often sold in health food stores, because of their processing method.
Learn more in Eating on the Wild Side or at www.eatwild.com.